OCTOBER 27, 2023 - We have recently been made aware of public concern surrounding the City of North Canton’s active zoning and property code cases involving North Canton Repair Shop (1555 N. Main St.). We would like to take the opportunity to provide some information and insight on this matter from the City’s perspective, in hopes of clarifying some misconceptions and enabling the public to be better informed as to the situation at hand.
- Neither the City of North Canton nor the North Canton Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) have made an offer to purchase the North Canton Repair Shop property.
- The property and zoning code violations that the City believes to be present on the North Canton Repair Shop property involve only the manufacture and/or processing of logs into firewood, and the location and safety of structures used in conjunction with those purposes. The City has brought forth no zoning issues or violations with respect to the small engine repair or garden center business functions on the property.
- The nature of the alleged violations for the North Canton Repair Shop property means that they are not eligible for a pre-existing use (i.e., “grandfathered”) exemption.
- The City does not believe that these alleged violations will or should cause North Canton Repair Shop to close or relocate, as they do not involve the small engine repair or garden center functions of the business.
- To date, North Canton Repair Shop has received no criminal, civil, or monetary penalties for the alleged violations.
- North Canton Repair Shop has exercised its right to due process, filing two appeals for which extensions were requested and granted with no objection from the City. No further action will be taken on the case by the City until those appeals are resolved.
- There is no requirement for North Canton Repair Shop or any other business to relocate in order for a potential Community Entertainment District (CED) to eventually be established, as proposed in the City’s 2023 Master Plan.
In September 2023, the City of North Canton delivered a warning letter to North Canton Repair Shop detailing several property and zoning code violations the City believed to be present on the property. The warning letter details the violations, the exact text of the City’s code, and how the violations may be corrected/addressed or disputed. North Canton Repair Shop has exercised its right to due process via an appeal and has two hearings scheduled in relation to that appeal process: one at the end of November, and the other in early December. To date, North Canton Repair Shop has received no criminal, civil, or monetary penalties for the violations. No additional action will be taken by the City until the appeals process has run its course. There are a total of 19 violations (10 unique violations, a large portion of which are duplicated across both properties that North Canton Repair owns) that focus on three key issues:
- The City believes that a structure located on the south side of the property has been constructed without building permits and has been built over the property line onto the neighbor’s property. In accordance with state law, permits must be pulled and the building may not be built on someone else’s property. As permits were never obtained, the City cannot ensure the structure is safe for employees or customers.
- The City believes there is a structure on the northwest part of the property that was built without building permits, and—as admitted by the property owner on numerous occasions—is taken apart and reconstructed at least twice a year. As permits were never obtained, the City cannot ensure the structure is safe for employees or customers.
- The City believes that there are a number of piles of wood debris and improperly stacked wood on the rear part of the property. These piles are leftovers from the processing of logs into firewood. Piles kept on the ground or in wet conditions can, if left unattended, attract pests such as termites, carpenter ants, and rodents that also pose a danger to private homes and businesses. Dry piles that are intermixed with leaves, twigs, and other debris can also pose fire risks, particularly during dry, windy weather. Stacks piled too high can fall over and cause injury.
The Code Enforcement case file can be viewed online for free at: https://northcantonoh.portal.opengov.com/records/5949.
Second, regarding the issue of whether North Canton Repair’s use of their property could potentially be a “grandfathered” or pre-existing use that was in effect prior to the implementation of the current zoning code. While there are provisions of state and local code that allow the continuation of non-conforming zoning uses, or “grandfathering”, this exemption does not apply to 1) uses that were never permitted on the property by any version of the zoning code in existence at the time of North Canton Repair Shop’s operations on the site, or 2) buildings constructed on a neighbor’s property, newly constructed or reconstructed buildings, and public health and safety codes. It is the City’s belief that the processing of trees and the manufacture of firewood has never been permitted use on the property. However, it is the City’s belief that the existence of the repair business function and the garden center business function, are both exempt, pre-existing uses of the property and may continue in the pre-existing structures on the property. The repair business and garden center business functions on the property, and the sales related thereto, are NOT at issue in the active Code Enforcement case. The only issues cited by the City relate to the manufacture and/or processing of firewood, and the location and safety of structures used in conjunction with those purposes.
Third, the City does not believe that these alleged violations will or should cause the business to close or relocate. Again, the City has brought forth no zoning issues or violations with respect to the small engine repair or garden center business functions on the property and the sales related thereto. These functions, and the structures they are located in, were properly permitted and may continue to exist and operate on the property unless, pursuant to the North Canton Codified Ordinances, they are abandoned for a period of 12 months or more. The only issues cited by the City are with the manufacture and/or processing of logs into firewood, and the location and safety of structures used in conjunction with those purposes.
Fourth, North Canton Repair, just as any business or individual cited under the zoning or property codes, has the full right to due process and appeal. In fact, North Canton Repair Shop has already filed two appeals and has requested and received extensions on those appeals with no objection from the City. No further action will be taken on the case by the City until those appeals are resolved. The appeal case files may be viewed online for free at the links below:
Finally, we are aware of a number of other misconceptions currently being circulated on social media that may be misleading.
- Misconception: The City is seeking to purchase the property. The City of North Canton and the North Canton Community Improvement Corporation have never offered to purchase the North Canton Repair Shop property. The City is aware that several private entities have approached the business in the past about selling to them, but those are private transactions and negotiations in which the City were not, and are not, involved.
- Misconception: The City is seeking to push out North Canton Repair for the establishment of a Community Entertainment District as described in the 2023 North Canton Master Plan. A Community Entertainment District (CED), if created, would simply increase the number of D5 liquor permits available in the area. There is no requirement or need for North Canton Repair Shop or any other business that would potentially be located in a CED to relocate in order for this to occur. Additionally, at present, the City of North Canton may not legally create a CED under state law. The City would first need to grow to a population of over 20,000 (currently 17,842) and secure an investment of $50 million (ORC 4301.80(B)). The goal of creating a CED as included in the Master Plan is aspirational but is highly unlikely to occur for many years, if ever. With versions spanning multiple years, the City of North Canton’s Master Plan is not designed to be a definitive list of initiatives that the City is certain to pursue. Rather, it is an evolving compilation of city leaders’ best ideas for the progress and prosperity of North Canton – a set of recommendations adapted to best meet the unique community opportunities and challenges of the time.
- Misconception: The City similarly pushed out Randy’s Automotive. The North Canton Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) purchased the property where Randy’s Automotive operated for future development as part of the City’s land bank initiative and through negotiations with Randy’s Automotive and its counsel. The City purchased the property through private sale, as Randy’s was looking for a larger space, and found that space in Jackson Township on Whipple Ave. The City wishes Randy’s Automotive all the best with its future business operations. We are also excited about the possibility of new investment, and about preventing a long-term vacancy of a former auto shop like Randy’s Automotive, similar to what has occurred with the former Spitzer property.
- Misconception: The City’s Zoning changes, as mentioned in the Master Plan, have become more restrictive and have turned North Canton Repair Shop into a non-conforming use. The City’s recent zoning amendments have liberalized the restrictions from the previous 2003 zoning code, including broadening permitted uses, expanding the number and types of permitted signage, reducing required parking spaces, and liberalizing setback requirements. Additionally, at the time the amended zoning code was being considered, all property owners along Main Street were invited to two drafting sessions to give feedback on the City’s proposed code and were also invited to public hearings before the City Council. Some property owners did take this opportunity to provide feedback, and their suggestions were ultimately included in the zoning code version adopted by City Council. None of the City’s recent zoning changes relate to manufacturing or processing of firewood and/or the deconstruction and rebuilding of temporary structures at issue in the North Canton Repair Shop Code Enforcement case.
As stated previously, the City has brought forth no zoning issues with the small engine repair or garden center business functions of North Canton Repair Shop. These functions, and the structures they are in, were properly permitted and may continue to exist and operate unless abandoned for a period of 12 months or more. However, according to City records, the manufacturing and/or processing of logs into firewood has never been a permitted use on the property in question, and no certificates of occupancy were ever issued authorizing such use on the property.
We would like to reiterate that no additional action will be taken by the City until the appeals process has run its course and that to date, North Canton Repair Shop has received no criminal, civil, or monetary penalties for the violations.